Dear President Obama,
Today is another day during which we do not have a rational gun policy in this nation, though hopefully the much-needed conversations are beginning. Unfortunately there are many people out there who will surely bombard you with spurious arguments based on slippery slopes and false equivalencies. These people will tell you that no policy will prevent all shootings therefore action is futile. They will point out all of the other ways people can die as a justification for doing nothing about gun violence. They will ignore the myriad safety protocols that keep us safe everyday so that they may demonize regulation.
What I ask of you today is to lead us through the specious arguments, the faulty logic, and self-interest, not just behind closed doors but also in the public space. To stand up and be a voice for clarity and understanding, to advocate for the many goods that oversight brings us and elucidate the ways in which robust safety protocols with regard to guns can serve the public good even as it safeguards individual rights.
The world can be a dangerous place, and in most cases we have chosen to regulate the things that can do us harm. In order to drive a vehicle one must pass tests in order to gain that right. Individuals must register their vehicles, and in many states have them certified as safe annually. Everyone is required to take out insurance to help mitigate the risks that vehicles pose to others. Many of these regulations impose costs beyond that of purchasing the vehicle, but we as a society have deemed that the public good brought about by these measures outweighs the individual costs.
All of these things must be done before an individual can even begin to drive; there are extensive laws regarding how we may operate vehicles as part of an effort to safeguard the public good. The maintenance of public safety again supercedes individual liberties.
I implore you to take a similar approach to the use of guns. To lead a careful examination of the responsibilities that extend from the gun ownership, an examination that develops safety protocols grounded in public safety not political expediency. Most gun owners are responsible, just as are most drivers, but no one would suggest repealing the traffic code to protect the individual liberties of safe drivers. Similarly we need meaningful standards for gun safety, obligations that come with the right to own a potentially dangerous weapon.
We, as a nation, need you to lead this public conversation and steer it clear of the false dichotomies and simplistic reductions that favor and enable inaction, because inaction is no longer acceptable.